The Nigerian Bar Association on Friday rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment that national security takes precedence over the rule of law.
The President had made the comment while declaring open the 58th Annual General Conference of the NBA on Sunday.
The conference, on Friday, culminated in the inauguration of NBA’s new President, Mr. Paul Usoro, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and other newly elected national officers of the association.
Usoro, who became the 29th President of the association took over from Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), who with his team had piloted the affairs of the association for two years.
In its communiqué, which it issued at the end of the conference on Friday, the association said it rejected Buhari’s comment, insisting that the rule of law was central to democracy.
It added that national security must be managed within the parameters of the rule of law.
The President’s comment had attracted condemnations by Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), and other prominent Nigerians.
The NBA communiqué, signed by its immediate past President and General Secretary, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), and Mr. Abiola Olagunju, demanded that the government and the citizenry must always obey court order in compliance with the principle of the rule of law.
The communique read in part, “The conference completely rejects the presidential statement subordinating the rule of law to national security. The NBA restates that the rule of law is central to a democracy and any national security concerns by the government must be managed within the perimeters and parameters of the rule of law.
“As a corollary, conference frowns upon the present growing trend whereby government decides on which court orders to obey.
“The court has exclusive duty under a democratic dispensation to interpret the Constitution and other laws, and government and the citizenry must comply with court orders at all times until set aside.”
The communique also addressed various topical national issues bordering on the economy and the judiciary.
While calling for a budgetary arrangement that allows for funds to be directly allocated to the judiciary at federal and state levels in order to guarantee the independence of the judiciary, the association rejected the Federal Government’s Executive Order Six, which directs prosecuting and investigating agencies to take steps to ensure assets linked to pending criminal cases are temporarily forfeited.
It stated, “The conference emphatically objects to the issuance of the Executive Orders in respect to matters already in court and observes that any such order is a breach of the principle of separation of powers; and counsels that Executive Orders be issued for good governance and to manage operations of government, and not to encroach or usurp upon the constitutional powers of other arms of government, lest Executive Orders become attempts at decree-making.”
The NBA called for adequate funding and improved welfare for police personnel, saying serious consideration should be given to calls for state police, but with safeguards to prevent abuse. It also enjoined government to ensure free and fair electoral processes.